In an era when bronze statues immortalized heroes, a modest pantheon came into being: an Editors' Hall of Fame. Established in 1927 by the lllinois Press Association to "preserve the spirit and achievement of notable members of the press." A university location was chosen for the busts envisioned, so that journalism students would see and be influenced by them. While a good deal of correspondence remains about the selection of Hall of Fame members, no information has come to light about the criteria used to award the few sculpture commissions.
The director of the school of journalism, Laurence Murphy, wrote a colleague about the continuing need to give recognition to reporters and editors working for a free press and to assemble a numerically ambitious collection. "It is important," he confided, "that the busts keep on coming as we will get a journalism building of the right size if the Hall seems to be filling up rapidly and it looks as though there would be a large gallery instead of a small one. The University is not sold on the idea that we need a place for 100 or more busts because it sees only eight or nine on the grounds."
Gregory Hall, housing the journalism school, was built in 1940, and the busts were installed in first-and second-floor corridors. But the outbreak of war effectively ended thoughts of expanding the collection, so that by 1943, the last year elections to the Hall of Fame were held, just eighty-nine men and one woman had been honored, among them, Joseph Addison, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, John Peter Zenger, Myra Bradwell, and Noah Webster. Only the eight bronze busts, however, constituted its visible, artistic manifestation. That is still the case.
Especially worth study are Jo Davidson's un-idealized, intensely expressive portrait of the publisher Edward Willis Scripps and Frances Savage Curtis's fine characterization of Melville Elijah Stone, founder of the Associated Press, Lorado Taft, Albin Polasek, Viola Norman, and Oskar J. W.
Dedication of the Editors' Hall of Fame, 1930 Hansen did the others, portraits of Elijah Parish Lovejoy, David Wright Barkley, William Osborne Davis, Victor Fremont Lawson, Joseph Meharry Medill, Henry Wilson Clendenin, and Henry Means Pindell.
Artistic comparisons aside, the spectator might muse on the ephemeral nature of fame and immortality. Opposite a large lecture room in the center of Gregory Hall is a lettered metal plate informing the public that the Editors' Hall of Fame was meant to "perpetuate the spirit and achievements of great editors." Despite recently improved lighting conditions, it is difficult to ignore the fact that the busts are neglected, their inelegant wooden supports peeling, their history and sentiment certainly forgotten.
According to the Illinois Press Association Foundation website, the eight honored with busts are: Owen Lovejoy; Victor F. Lawson, the first publisher of the Chicago Daily News and a founder of the Associated Press; Joseph Medill, an architect of the Chicago Tribune; Henry Clendenin, editor of the Illinois State Register in Springfield; David Barkely, longtime editor of the Wayne County Press in Fairfield; William Davis, editor-publisher of The Pantagraph in Bloomington; Edward Scripps, founder of the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain; and Henry Pindell of the Peoria Journal and Peoria Transcript.
It is speculated there may be a ninth bust, but no information (or the bust) could be found.